Does God laugh? Did Jesus ever tell jokes to His disciples? With some liberties in interpretation and attention to context, some theologians have pointed to scriptures as evidence that God has a sense of humor. Elton Trueblood’s The Humor of Christ reveals that through the use of hyperbole and oxymoronic comparisons, Jesus used humor as a teaching tool in His story-telling.
But we cannot conclusively argue from scripture that God has a sense of humor – at least in terms we understand. The cultural framework of the biblical writers hinders us from pointing specifically to things that they would have found funny or entertaining, so we’re left to wonder.
Creation, however, is another story. The diversity and oddity of the created order reveals a God whom we can imagine enjoying a tender smile (at the tumbling kitten for example) or a genuine guffaw (look at that nose on a proboscis monkey!). The amazing umbrella ants, the vocally versatile mockingbird, and the deep water fish that generate their own electricity for “headlights” most certainly demonstrate a God who created to entertain Himself.
Perhaps we shy away from attributing humor to God because we equate humor with sarcasm or criticism of others or even off-color jokes. God does none of these things. But, there is a wider sense where God creates for enjoyment and light-hearted amazement. Perhaps God’s humor in creation should be associated with words like “amazing” or “incredible” or “wonderful” or even “how does that happen?” We might respond with humor’s typical response of laughter, but we may also find ourselves saying “Wow.”
God designs creation to teach us, but He also uses it to assure us, lighten our spirits, or make us smile. In an essay entitled Animals, My Kinsmen, Elisabeth Elliot references an article in which a forest ranger in Vermont recorded his field observations. During an autumn day rounds in his region of the forest, this ranger heard a peculiar noise. He approached the source of the noise cautiously and observed a bear cub in motion. The cub would stack a pile of fallen leaves underneath a low-hanging branch; then he would climb out onto to the branch and dive into the leaves. He would then re-gather the leaves and repeat the process. The reason? None but sheer fun. The cub was “frolicking.”
While watching an episode of Nature on television, I learned about snow monkeys on the coast of northern Japan. The show presented one of their most amazing behaviors. They would gather together atop coastal rock outcroppings and repeatedly “cannonball” into the sea. For hours on end, the naturalists observed this behavior with their only conclusion being that the monkeys were just having fun.
God’s created world provides a remedy to our sullen spirits. He sends the motoring hummingbird or the pesky squirrel to make us laugh and cause us to remember the lighter side of life. In a world where we are oftentimes overly analytical, excessively busy, or increasingly anxious, we need to take time out to enjoy God’s sense of humor.
God created for His own enjoyment, but He shares this enjoyment with us. Whether it is to relieve our anxieties or to enable to relax and “frolic”, we need to get a glimpse of God’s world with a smile.